The Top-22 Buddhist Temples of South Korea
These are the twenty-two Buddhist monasteries of the Republic of Korea I have judged to be
the most-worth-visiting, also among the largest and most religiously-important in the entire nation.
Criteria used include contemporary size, long history of importance within the religion, national
reputation, and architectural and cultural treasures -- the final judgment based on my own four
decades of visiting them.   2
2 might seem like a strange odd number, but that's how the list came
out -- to list only the top 10 would leave out some very important temples, and to make it 30
would include some that really don't rank in the same category as these 2
2, deficient in one or
more of the criteria.  Th
is list includes 20 monasteries from the dominant Jogye Order (70+% of
Korean Buddhism) and two each from the two next-largest orders, Taego and Cheontae.

These 2
2 temples include 13 from eastern side of the peninsula (east or north of the Baekdu-
daegan Mountain Range) and nine from the western side.   9 of them are located on mountains
that are part of the Baekdu-daegan mainline, and the
13 others are on Jeongmaek branches.

These monasteries are all among the top-50-or-so most interesting places to visit and most
popular pilgrimage-destinations in contemporary South Korea.  Most of them have many
hermitages on the slopes above them, after all together serve the practices of hundreds of monks.
They all contain many profound religious-cultural treasures on their grounds and in their shrines
or museums.  They are listed here North-to-South, not any order of relative importance; and they
are named by the mountain that hosts them, in the traditional style.  It is equally true that "such
a great temple was established and maintained for so long at that mountain because the mountain
is so holy" and that "the presence of such a great temple increases the reputation for sacredness
of the mountain that hosts it".   Click on the name to see my photos of and commentary on that
temple, its host mountain and its San-shin shrines.
Seorak-san  Shinheung-sa      설악산 신흥사

Odae-san  Woljeong-sa           오대산 월정사

Samgak-san  Doseon-sa         삼각산 도선사

An-san  Bongwon-sa                안산 봉원사

Yeoju Bongmi-san Shilleuk-sa  여주 봉미산 신륵사

Sobaek-san  Guin-sa           소백산 구인사

Taebaek-san  Buseok-sa*        태백산 부석사
(or Seondal-san, Bonghwang-san or Sobaek-san)

Deoksung-san  Sudeok-sa      덕숭산  수덕사
(part of the Naepo Gaya-san complex)

Taehwa-san  Magok-sa           태화산 마곡사

Sogni-san  Beobju-sa*             속리산 법주사

Gyeryong-san  Gap-sa            계룡산  갑사

Hwangak-san  Jikji-sa*             황악산 직지사

Palgong-san  Donghwa-sa       팔공산 동화사

Palgong-san  Eunhae-sa          팔공산 은해사

Gaya-san  Haein-sa*                가야산 해인사

Toham-san  Bulguk-sa*           토함산 불국사
(including Seokgul-am Cave-shrine)

Moak-san  Geumsan-sa           모악산 금산사

Yeongchuk-san or Chuiseo-san  
Tongdo-sa*                     영축산 취서산 통도사

Jiri-san  Shilsang-sa                 지리산 실상사

Jiri-san  Hwaeom-sa                 지리산 화엄사

Jiri-san  Ssanggye-sa               지리산 쌍계사

Geumjeong-san Beomeo-sa     금정산 범어사

Jogye-san Songgwang-sa        조계산 송광사
* = these great Korean temples were designated by UNESCO
on the World Cultural Heritage Sites List   -- see
this page.